The French map, according to the regional elections results announced yesterday evening. Photo via CartoDB
It was the combination of patriotism and sheer boredom while waiting for my food to be delivered last night that pushed me to switch on my TV, to find that the far-right National Front party got approximately 30 percent of the national vote during the opening round of the 2015 French regional elections.
I hate these people. But there's something I hate even more: voting. This is why on Sunday I stayed home watching an average TV show instead of going to a polling station. I know what I've just written has probably already given some of you a heart attack. You're probably the kind of person who separates your garbage and compost. But like many French citizens, I don't vote. And it's a considered decision.
I did start out voting. The first time was in 2007, when the excitement that I was doing something new exceeded the meaningful, or meaningless, value of the act itself. It's like the first time you do anything—you go through several phases. First, you tell yourself it must be something cool since everybody is talking about it. Then you ask yourself why you're waiting in line with a slip of paper. Finally, you decide there are better things to be doing. At the time, I didn't know much about politics. My attentions were limited strictly to chasing members of the opposite sex and Counter Strike 1.6.
Then, the elections were over. The candidate I'd gone to all that effort to vote for lost, and life went on for him and for me. Five years later there were still really poor people, really rich people and, in the middle, many average people like me.
By the time the 2012 elections came, I was about to start work. These, everyone said, were the elections of hope. Nicolas Sarkozy would finally get out, the left would return—and with a 70 percent tax for rich people. I genuinely believed that the world would get better. The day after, everything was the same. And I couldn't help thinking—how can so many intellectually developed people get fooled like this every five years?
But everybody just keeps believing. It's like the British with the World Cup. And meanwhile I live on, with everyone hating me. "People fought so you could have this right!" they tell me. I deeply thank those people for having the courage to move their asses so we could avoid spending our time ploughing fields to serve perverse and dishonest lords, but I don't see why I should have to self-flagellate every night because of it. Dying for a cause doesn't make it respectable. I didn't ask anything of these people, and our political system is now radically different. So why should I subscribe to it?
The second argument people want to shout in my face is as peremptory as the previous one: "OK if you don't vote how do you expect to change things?" What makes me sad in this sentence is that it insinuates there is no other way than voting to make things change. Since when has voting ever achieved major social advances? Elections didn't deliver us abortion, gay marriage, equal pay, or the pill. The most important societal changes have always come about because of the courage of a few people—not putting a piece of paper in a ballot box.
Every day, I watch my girlfriend get up and go to work at a non-profit organization that helps old people and others in society that nobody gives a shit about and I tell myself that our country would be better off if all the voters, with their big speeches lifted from citizenship education classes, could do the quarter of what she does.
All day yesterday I've watched inane tweets about non-voters pass through my feed: "With the rise of the National Front, don't you feel ashamed to not vote?" one read, as if it's non-voters that have lead to the rise of the National Front, not 30 years of mistakes by politicians and the media. Voting should be a conviction, not a rational choice. It's like asking me if I'd rather kill three old people or 250 newborns. A logical choice could be found, but I refuse to even think about having to make it.
Some people tell me I'm a coward. But there is nothing more cowardly than voting. It's a devolution of responsibilities—placing a part of your individual freedom in the hands of people who, in exchange, must bring you social and economic safety. Poverty? The state should take care of it. Violence? The State should take care of it. Obviously these issues should be solved and considered by the state. But for voters, elections feel like a way of saying to politicians: "I give you my vote so now deal with it and make sure everything around me gets better." Voting Infantilizes us, it turns us into whining children incapable of changing anything until the next round of elections come around.
From this comes another argument put forward by the exemplary citizen voters. "If you don't vote, you don't have the right to complain." But isn't it the contrary? As a voter, you accept the political game you've contributed to, with all its rules and consequences. That also means you can't come crying when the person you've voted for has just fucked you over—raising taxes or cutting benefits or fiddling their expenses. Because you agreed to play and you put them in power. You're basically that person watching Premier League football complaining about the massive salaries of the players.
Every five years, people are elected on the basis of their false promises. Two years later, people start to realize it. They protest and vote for another candidate that will also be elected for their false promises. And so on. We're close to the Stockholm syndrome here. Politicians are like the ex who cheated on you with a guy better looking and taller than you, but comes back every six months to bother you with a 2 AM text message: "Hi, you're good? What are you doing tonight?" You think it might be good to go there again, that maybe she changed. But deep down you know how that story ends. Voting is our personal Hunger Games, making fortune of the few, and mass misfortune for the rest of us. And yet despite all this, I still get called an asshole for not doing my "duty."
Charles Bukowski said: "The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting." The goal here, of course, is not a dictatorship, but to adapt our system for the common good and stop voting blindly for people who have so obviously got something better to do than make our lives better. When I see what motivated the vote of these so-called exemplary citizens for the regional elections that could potentially bring these far right extremists into power, I can only think that elections will never bring anything. Or, to be more precise: anything good.
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